How Much Turnout Is Enough?

Article excerpt

James G. Garrick, M.D., a pioneer in dance medicine, has published many studies on the physical aspects of dance. Now he goes into the classroom to track the progession or lack of turnout in younger dancers for his next paper. Marin Dance Theatre students gain unique benefits as Garrick evaluates and identifies weak areas that need attention as their training continues.

Medical papers are difficult for laymen to understand. They contain technical descriptions of examinations and apologies for insufficent time to conduct long studies, as well as contradictions. However, in a paper, "Turnout and Training in Ballet," by James G. Garrick, M.D. and Ralph K. Requa, M.S.P.H., published in 1994, the findings are loud and clear. Their conclusion, which included other studies as well, was that none were able to identify a group of ballet dancers with "aberrant excessive external hip rotation." Most of the measurements fell well within the normal or high-normal turnout range, "but surely not the `pathologic' values many in the ballet community think are required for a successful dance career."

Papers on turnout from the several previous studies included in their findings admit flaws in the examination methods and other factors. Basically, the conclusions drawn from all these sources are that training begun during ages six to twelve develops turnout while altering the angle of the long thighbone at the hip by stretching the iliofemoral ligament, a possibility that is not well documented. If turnout does not increase as a result of ballet training at this age, the only way it can be achieved is by stretching the ligament. Examination of older dancers, however, would suggest that they have not stretched the ligament to the extent that they have unstable hips. Garrick's and Requa's article states that the primary reason that those older, more proficient dancers seem to have better turnout is that those with inadquate turnout have fallen along the way; and while turnout seems to be within normal range, although at the upper limits, dance education sorts out those whose external rotation is a standard deviation or more above the average. However, by virtue of the fact that these people also seem to have more internal rotation, and consequently more flexible hips, there may indeed be something to stretching the iliofemoral ligament. After the age of eleven, the femoral neck can no longer be altered; and after the age of fifteen, it is not possible to improve the rotation. …